Posted in 1970s, Music

An underrated collaboration

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Released 16 September 1977, Rough Mix reached #44 in the U.K. and #45 in the U.S. It was recorded during a hiatus for The Who, and after Ronnie Lane’s band The Faces (who evolved from The Small Faces) split up. Ronnie originally wanted Pete to produce his next solo album, seeing as how Pete’s home studio was one of England’s most advanced at the time. He also wanted to co-write songs with Pete, but that idea was met with disinterest.

Ronnie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during the making of the album, which he didn’t publicly reveal. Since Pete had no idea what was going on with his mate’s health, he thought Ronnie was coming to the studio drunk, and really chewed him out about it. They also once had a fight related to Ronnie’s emotional issues regarding MS. When Pete discovered the truth, he felt really bad about how he’d treated poor Ronnie.

Sadly, both of Ronnie’s brothers and his mother also had MS. As a child, doctors assured him it wasn’t hereditary, but when he was diagnosed at 31, the doctor allowed that it tends to cluster in families. Ronnie passed away at only 51, in 1997.

The eleven songs sound neither like The Who nor The Faces, but British folk rock. In addition to Pete and Ronnie, Rough Mix also features John Entwistle, Charlie Watts, Ian Stewart, and Ronnie’s band Slim Chance. Pete’s then-father-in-law Edwin Astley also did some of the orchestral arrangements.

Though the album only had modest chart success, critics generally rated it positively. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice praised some of the songs as Pete’s “keenest in years.”

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“My Baby Gives It Away” (Pete)
“Nowhere to Run” (Ronnie)
“Rough Mix” (co-written instrumental, one of the rare times Pete co-wrote anything)
“Annie” (Ronnie)
“Keep Me Turning” (Pete)
“Catmelody” (Ronnie)
“Misunderstood” (Pete)
“April Fool” (Ronnie)
“Street in the City” (Pete)
“Heart to Hang Onto” (sung by both)
“Till All the Rivers Run Dry” (written by Don Williams and Wayland Holyfield; sung by Pete)
“Only You”* (originally released on Ronnie’s final solo album, 1979’s See Me)
“Good Question”* (instrumental; also found on Pete’s 1983 double album Scoop as “Brr”)
“Silly Little Man”* (originally released on Ronnie’s third solo album, 1976’s One for the Road)

A 1996 collection of Pete’s greatest solo hits takes its title from a line in “Misunderstood,” coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking. (Yes, that’s supposed to be all one word.) “Street in the City” is also, hauntingly, famous as one of three songs Pete wrote in this era with lines about jumping or falling off of a ledge (the others being “Love Is Coming Down” and The Who’s version of “Empty Glass”).

My favorite tracks are “Annie,” “Keep Me Turning,” “Street in the City,” and “Heart to Hang Onto.”

Posted in 1970s, Music

Spiritual solo sounds

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In celebration of the one and only Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend turning 75 this month, I’m devoting May’s posts to reviewing his solo albums which I haven’t previously reviewed. Let’s kick things off with Who Came First, his first official solo album, released October 1972. The review I originally wrote for my old Angelfire site around 2002 is in bold. My edits are fairly minimal.

This is a very spiritual album that reflects a large influence by Meher Baba. Unfortunately, soon after I got this album, my backup record player temporarily went to pot (the sound got worse than usual; it was a child’s Cabbage Patch player, after all, and a real waste of money), and I wasn’t able to play any of my records for another month or so.

Even then, it still took quite a number of listens to kick in, really kick in, and I was able to start enjoying all of it, not just some of it. People who aren’t into spiritual music probably won’t like it that much. That said, once it grew on me, I really liked the songs, esp. the spiritual ones.

I sound like a broken record, but Pete’s version of “Let’s See Action” is worlds better than The Who’s. Different lyrics, it’s longer, and it’s softer and slower. He never should’ve surrendered that song to them or changed the lyrics!

“Pure and Easy” is also slightly different from the band’s version, softer and slower, with some changed lyrics. They both sound way more spiritual here.

There’s also his version of “Time Is Passing,” which for many years was the only version available. The Who’s version was on a badly damaged tape that (as of 1995) was too corrupt to operate on so it might be included as a bonus track on the remastered Who’s Next. It was saved, however, and in 1997 was issued as one of many bonus tracks on the remastered Odds and Sods.

It all depends on your outlook. If you like underrated and spiritual stuff, you might like to bring this into your collection early on. This was my seventh solo album of his, and even then I was a slight bit nervous about acquiring it, as I hadn’t heard much about it, either good or bad.

It’s not well-known like Empty Glass or Psychoderelict, but it has a lovely spiritual dimension you won’t find in any boygroup monkey’s “solo career.” And because of the underrated nature of this album, coupled with the fact that it was just done on the side in a recording interim, most people don’t feel Pete’s solo career began with this album, but rather with Empty Glass in 1980, eight years later.

Prior to WCF, Pete released solo work on collaborative albums Happy Birthday (February 1970) and I Am (1972), both of which were tributes to Meher Baba. Due to poor-quality bootlegs of the limited-run, privately-distributed LPs, Decca asked Pete for permission to publicly release them.

Always one to beat to his own drum, Pete instead significantly overhauled the track listings and transformed those two albums into his first real solo album. Also on WCF were Lifehouse demo tracks and some new songs.

Pete recorded the songs in his home studio, which was one of England’s most advanced at the time. One dollar from each sale went to charity.

Track listing:

“Pure and Easy”
“Evolution” (written and sung by Ronnie Lane of The Small Faces)
“Forever’s No Time at All” (written by Billy Nicholls and Kate McInnerny; sung by Mr. Nicholls)
“Nothing Is Everything (Let’s See Action)”
“Time Is Passing”
“There’s a Heartache Following Me” (written by Ray Baker)
“Sheraton Gibson”
“Content” (co-written with Maud Kennedy)
“Parvardigar” (Meher Baba’s beautiful Universal Prayer)

2006 bonus tracks:

“His Hands”
“Sleeping Dog”
“Day of Silence”
“The Love Man”
“Lantern Cabin”
“Mary Jane”
“I Always Say”
“Begin the Beguine” (written by Cole Porter)

2017 bonus tracks:

“His Hands”
“The Seeker”
“Day of Silence”
“Sleeping Dog”
“Mary Jane” (Stage A, alternative take)
“I Always Say”
“Begin the Beguine”
“Baba O’Riley” (instrumental)
“The Love Man” (Stage C)
“Content” (Stage A)
“Day of Silence” (alternative version)
“Parvardigar” (alternative take)
“Nothing Is Everything” (earlier take)
“There’s a Fortune in Those Hills”
“Meher Baba in Italy” (instrumental)
“Drowned” (live in India)
“Evolution (Stone)” (live at Ronnie Lane Memorial, Royal Albert Hall, 8 April 2004)

My favorite tracks are “Content” (so ethereally gorgeous!), “There’s a Heartache Following Me,” “Let’s See Action,” and “Parvardigar.” I used to have the words of “Parvardigar” taped up on my dorm doors.

Posted in 1970s, Music

Happy 50th birthday, BOTW!

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Released 26 January 1970, BOTW was Simon and Garfunkel’s fifth and final studio album, and was almost the next-last album I listened to in this lifetime. I played it the night before my August 2003 car accident, and when I was finally able to sit in a chair by my record player again, that was the first LP I put on the turntable.

Ever since then, hearing any of the songs can set something off in my psyche and give me a feeling akin to body memories, with my throat getting tighter. It’s not a PTSD trigger, but it brings back memories of those almost being among the final songs I ever heard.

S&G’s last album, Bookends, was released in April 1968, and recording for BOTW commenced in November. However, a long delay arose in January 1969—the filming of Catch-22, in which Art plays Nately. (This is a dreadful, dreadful movie, taking way too many liberties with the classic novel!)

When the duo got back to business in the studio, they had to decline a number of invitations, including Woodstock. Crafting their new album was top priority. In the end, they selected eleven songs. Several other songs, among them “Feuilles-O,” “Groundhog,” and “Cuba Si, Nixon No,” were left in the vault.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” (#1 in the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, and New Zealand; #2 in Australia, Ireland, and Spain; #3 in Germany; #4 in Austria and South Africa; #5 in Switzerland and The Netherlands; #7 in Norway; #23 in Belgium)

“El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)” (written by Peruvian commposer Daniel Alomía Robles in 1913) (#1 in Belgium, Australia, Austria, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland; #6, #11, and #18 on different U.S. charts; #14 in New Zealand)

“Cecilia” (my third journal’s namesake song) (#1 in The Netherlands; #2 in Spain, Canada, and Germany; #3 in Belgium and Switzerland; #4, #31, and #1 on different U.S. charts; #6 in Australia and Austria; #9 in Belgium; #19 in Rhodesia)

“Keep the Customer Satisfied” (later covered by Gary Puckett as a solo artist)
“So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” (not a fan of the overly long fadeout!)

“The Boxer” (#1 and #3 on different Canadian charts; #2 in Austria and The Netherlands; #3 in South Africa; #4 and #7 on different U.S. charts; #5 in Sweden; #6 in the U.K.; #7 in Ireland; #8 in Australia; #9 in New Zealand and Norway; #10 in Spain; #13 in Zimbabwe; #19 in West Germany)

“Baby Driver”
“The Only Living Boy in New York”
“Why Don’t You Write Me”
“Bye Bye Love” (cover of The Everly Brothers’ original)
“Song for the Asking”
“Feuilles-O” (demo)*
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” (demo take six)*

The album reached #1 in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Spain, and Norway. In Italy, it was #4.

While I truly enjoy this album, I don’t rank it in the same territory as PSR&T and Bookends. It’s a little too hit and miss. A truly classic album shouldn’t have so much filler!

Besides the four singles, my favorite tracks are “The Only Living Boy in New York” and “Song for the Asking.”

I originally rated it 4.5 on my old Angelfire site, but now I’d honestly give it 4 stars.

Posted in 1970s, Music, The Who

Forty years ago in Cincinnati

Happy heavenly 101st birthday to Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn!

One of the greatest tragedies in rock music history unfolded in Cincinnati on 3 December 1979, the day before I was supposed to have been born. Had I been born on schedule instead of two weeks later, the headlines on my birthdate would’ve been dominated by news of this preventable tragedy.

My favourite band, The Who, were in the final month of their 1979 world tour, which began on 2 May. They were then in their second U.S. leg of the tour. On 3 December, they played at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum (now Heritage Bank Center). Though the show wasn’t set to start till 8:00 PM, people began congregating outside as early as 1:30. Not just a few diehard fans, but a large crowd.

There were so many people so early because a radio station said festival seating ticket holders would be admitted at 3:00. Of the 18,348 tickets sold, 14,770 were for festival seating (first-come, first-served). Anyone could get a front-row seat if s/he were determined enough.

People expected every door to open simultaneously, but only a pair of doors on the far right to the main entryway opened on schedule. While some concertgoers entered those doors in an orderly fashion, the crowds in front of the other doors continued building.

By 6:30, the crowd had grown to an estimated 8,000. The doors weren’t set to open till 7:00, but many people mistook The Who’s soundcheck for the start of the actual concert. Additionally, it was only 36 degrees, and the windchill from the Ohio River made it feel even more frigid.

The concertgoers wanted in, and now.

People at the back of the line began pushing forward, but this was a short-lived panic (for the moment), as concertgoers quickly realised the doors weren’t open and the concert hadn’t begun. Then people at the head of the lines began pressing forward again and knocked on the doors.

Pandemonium broke out as the crowd heard the Quadrophenia film playing in lieu of an opening act. The mass of humanity began stampeding towards the doors, and many people were trampled, pressed along, swept off their feet, and/or asphyxiated. With only two of 106 doors open, there was nowhere to go but forward, relentlessly forward.

As people in the back continued pushing against the crowd and shouting, they had no way of knowing people in the front were piled up on the ground. Shamefully, the cops refused to do anything, even when begged for help. Some of the doors were guarded by cops with billy clubs.

By the time the so-called lucky ones found their way inside, the crowd was still piling up. People were shoved in through the turnstiles, and ticket-takers seemed to think nothing were amiss. Some people entered through the tops of the doors. Bodies, shoes, clothes, purses, and personal effects worth thousands of dollars were strewn everywhere.

The cops found the first body at 7:54, after about an hour and a half of this horrific stampede. They finally realised just how serious this situation was after the fire department, ambulances, TV crews, the mayor, the fire chief, the city safety director, the Flying Squad from the Academy of Medicine, more cops, and many other people arrived.

Mayor Ken Blackwell, who’d only started his job that day, decided the show must go on, for fear of a riot breaking out inside Riverfront Coliseum. The Who’s manager, Bill Curbishly, also feared a riot and a stampede back out through the plaza. Cincinnati’s fire marshal concurred.

Curbishly knew eleven people had died by the end of the show, and told The Who to be snappy with their encore. When he broke the news after the show, Roger burst into tears.

Many people had previously called out Riverfront Coliseum’s festival seating, which had caused prior stampedes and bottlenecking. Security and fire safety had also previously been found severely lacking. Additionally, there had been calls for gates opening directly into the stadium instead of 106 glass doors.

Mayor Vincent Cianci of Providence, Rhode Island cancelled The Who’s upcoming concert out of fear of more fatalities, despite the fact that the Providence Civic Center had assigned seating. In 2012, Pete and Roger finally returned to Providence and honoured those cancelled tickets.

Cincinnati and many other cities banned festival seating, though Cincinnati later brought it back.

The eleven victims were:

Walter Adams, Jr., age 22
Peter Bowes, age 18
Connie Sue Burns, age 21
Jacqueline Eckerle, age 15
David Heck, age 19, from Kentucky
Teva Rae Ladd, age 27
Karen Morrison, age 15
Stephan Preston, age 19
Philip Snyder, age 20
Bryan Wagner, age 17, from Kentucky
James Warmoth, age 21

May their memories be for an eternal blessing.

“Rock & Roll Tragedy: Why 11 Died at the Who’s Cincinnati Concert,” Chet Flippo, Rolling Stone, 24 January 1980

Posted in 1960s, Adicia, Ernestine, Girl/Deirdre, Music

WeWriWa—In loving memory of John

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. In honor of John Lennon’s 39th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I’m taking a detour from my holiday-themed snippets.

This excerpt comes from Chapter 25, “Ernestine and Girl Are Beatlemaniacs,” of Little Ragdoll. It’s set over 9 February 1964, the day The Beatles first played Ed Sullivan. This is the first time young Ernestine Troy or her friends the Ryans (whose disinterested parents called them simply Girl, Boy, Baby, and Infant) have ever watched television.

The Ryans eventually take the names Deirdre, David, Fiona, and Aoife (EE-fa).

Ernestine thinks it’s pretty rude how the majority of the girls in the studio audience are screaming. Even if one really likes a band and is excited to see them perform, that’s no excuse for screaming nonstop. They’re probably making it hard for the band to hear themselves play, and are missing the entire show because all they’re doing is screaming.

During the next song, a cover of what Mrs. van Niftrik says is a Broadway tune, “Till There Was You,” there are closeups of each bandmember, providing each one’s name. Ernestine rolls her eyes when a caption appears under John’s name, saying, “Sorry girls, he’s married.” As though any of the girls in the audience or watching at home stand a chance of marrying someone that much older and that famous. She and Girl both think he’s the handsomest, married or not. The others are cute, but John has a more mature face, like a handsome adult man, not carrying the look of a cute, soft-faced boy into early adulthood. Girl also feels a special energy coming from him, an aura she has a very good feeling about.